After almost 50 years, the Dartmoor line between Okehampton and Exeter is set to reopen.
Services will resume from 20 November, ahead of the originally set schedule. The line is the first to be brought back to life as part of the UK Government’s Restoring Your Railway scheme — set up to return old lines into service.
The line was last open in 1972, and locals have since campaigned to have it reinstated.
Tickets are already on sale, and trains are set to run every two hours – increasing to an hourly service from May next year. This change will also increase the frequency of trains travelling between Crediton and Exeter.
The route will connect Exeter St David’s, Crediton and Okehampton. Around half of services, including at peak times, will also carry on to Exeter Central. The hope is that the reopening of the route will boost local businesses, the tourism sector, and provide greater access to education and work for local people.
The reopening has been executed successfully nine months after funding was allocated. Works included laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in record time. Repairs have also been made to 21 structures along the route including four bridges.
A range of works including vegetation clearance, earth and drainage works and fencing are ongoing in preparation for the return of regular services.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “‘The project, funded by over £40 million from the Department for Transport (DfT), is part of the wider campaign to reverse catastrophic cuts to the rail network primarily led by the Beeching axe.
“The work has been a successful collaboration between the DfT, Network Rail, GWR, Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, and local campaigners and MPs.”
GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “Working with our partners at Network Rail and in the community, we have long campaigned for the re-opening of this important local line, and we are really looking forward to being able to start running passenger trains again.
“With the start of services now just over a month away, this announcement is great news for communities surrounding Okehampton who will once again be connected to the national network.
“We’ve been working hard with Network Rail and local partners, including Devon County Council, to help prepare the line and the station at Okehampton for reopening on 20 November and this work will continue after 20 November as we develop the station facilities.
“The project to re-open the line is already helping to bring social and economic benefits to the local area reinforces the positive impact the railway can have on the communities we serve.”
Network Rail’s Western route and strategic operations director, Mike Gallop, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve reopened this much needed railway line for passenger services in just nine months and ahead of schedule.
“Our team has worked incredibly hard alongside our project partners GWR, Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and the local community to ensure this railway is ready to open.
“We can’t wait to welcome passengers back to the Dartmoor Line after an absence of nearly 50 years, linking passengers to Exeter and services to the rest of the country.”